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Northern Wisconsin tribe withholding casino revenue from state

A Native American tribe in northern Wisconsin is following through on its promise to withhold nearly $1 million in casino revenue from the state. The payment of $923,000 dollars is due today.

The Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians is withholding the money because of the expansion of a nearby casino in Wittenberg run by the Ho-Chunk Nation, according to tribe President Shannon Holsey.

"What I'm saying is until our dispute can be resolved, we have the ability to withhold it within our gaming compact and that's what we intend to do," Holsey said.

The money is being kept in an escrow account, according to Holsey.

The Stockbridge-Munsee Band has filed a federal lawsuit to stop the expansion, which the tribe contends is illegal under state law governing small, ancillary casinos like the one in Wittenberg.

The Wisconsin Department of Administration has sided with the Ho-Chunk Nation, which prompted the lawsuit.

The Stockbridge-Munsee Band commissioned a study which reportedly showed that the tribe's casino in Bowler would lose $22 million a year in revenue if the Ho-Chunk expansion occurred.

The Ho-Chunk casino in Wittenberg is 17 miles closer to the Wausau metropolitan area on a major highway.

"It's difficult for us, because our casino is the only casino in the state that's not on a major highway or a major through-way," Holsey said. "We have to be creative about how we attract and retain, but at the end of the day, we want to be the casino of choice regardless of what is happening."

A news release by the Ho-Chunk Nation on April 20 accused the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of slander, and called the lawsuit "frivolous."

Wisconsin Public Radio can be heard in the Twin Ports at 91.3 FM or online at wpr.org/news.

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